When I was endlessly googling PEI cottage rentals in the cold dark heart of winter, there was a very short list of things I wanted to get out of our PEI vacation and at the top of that list was morning coffee watching the sun rise over the ocean.
Pretty much exactly like this:
And then Tristan and I walked down our personal, private beach for a while, admiring the islands and the rocks and the unbelievable quiet of just the water lapping the red sand shores and the birds. It’s a good day when you get your to-do list accomplished by 9 am. It was a little early to call it a day, though, so we decided to go on a bit of a drive following an agenda mostly comprising “which way?” “Um, how about that way?” “Sure!”
Our first stop conveniently checked another item off the mental to-do list: Panmure Island and its 161 year old lighthouse, the oldest wooden lighthouse in PEI.
It was worth the $12 family rate to climb the stairs up the five floors to the top. Our guide Leona was the daughter of a man who was the lighthouse keeper for 35 years and she shared lots of interesting tidbits from how the lighthouse worked in the days before electricity (it involved a process I didn’t quite follow involving a bowl of mercury, a flame, a magnifying glass and weights that slowly lowered to keep the light turning through the night), shipwrecks, and the life of a lighthouse keeper.
We all made it to the top!
We coffeed up in Montague (one of only two Timmies on this side of the Island!) and headed on to Georgetown. At first we were a little underwhelmed by Georgetown, although it does have a lovely little waterfront park.
And then we discovered Shoreline Designs and had one of my favourite PEI experiences so far. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but if you travel to this end of PEI you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t stop in for a browse in Peter Llewellyn’s workshop. He crafts the most beautiful jewellery and art from seaglass, silver and PEI’s red rocks. He started talking to Tristan and before we knew it, Tristan was getting a lesson in how to hammer copper. Then we were invited into his back workshop where he showed us how he refines PEI’s red sandstone to give it a granite-like shine. He picked up a piece off his worktable and showed us the fossils and sediment lines, then handed it to Beloved told him to keep it. He started describing how you can put it in the microwave to heat it up and use it as a hot rock for sore muscles, and when I joked that he was trying to get me to blow up my microwave he took it back and demonstrated how it not only holds but retains the heat. While we chatted amiably with Peter, Lucas petted his patient old black dog on the porch. We left with huge smiles, hammered silver rings for the big boys, a new copper and silver cuff for me, lessons in metallurgy and geology, and the feeling that we’d found one of the best treasures on the Island.
(He has an online store – check him out for affordable and incredibly beautiful handcrafted jewellery!)
My friend Sarah had shared her favourite PEI vacations with me over coffee one day, and one recommendation she’d made was PEI National Park. The idea of dunes, boardwalks and ocean beaches was more than enough to lure us up to the north side of the Island. On the way, we stopped for lunch in the picture-perfect community of St Peter’s Bay. We noticed a place called Rick’s Fish and Chips seemed to have quite a few cars in the parking lot, a good sign of a local favourite, so we made our way in. To our delight, we found out that Rick’s had been featured in the Food Network show Ya Gotta Eat Here a few years ago – another show I watch a lot at the gym when Chef Michael Smith isn’t on. 😉 The menu helpfully points to the seafood pizza that was featured on the show (mussels, shrimp, lobster and fish, if I remember correctly) and so Simon and I decided to share one. It was the best thing I’ve eaten so far – yum!
One thing I was not anticipating for our PEI vacation was this blazing heat. I’d been watching the forecasts and expected coolish ocean breezes with sunshine and temperatures around 20C. It’s been at least 10C warmer than that, and with bellies full of clams and seafood pizza, the 5 km hike to the dunes of PEI National Park in the blazing late afternoon sun held increasingly diminishing appeal. In the end we decided that a walk on the beach would be more our speed, but we brought out bathing suits and towels just in case.
Good thing we did. Turns out the boys like the white sands of the northern Island beaches just as much as the red sands of the south shore!
Given it was the beginning of the tourist season in Canada’s favourite vacation destination and a sweltering heat wave, you can imagine that the day-before-Canada-Day crowds on the beach would be intense – we had to elbow our way through the crowds to get some breathing space. 😉
And dunes! Maybe not the sweeping dunes for which Greenwich is known, but pretty impressive dunes nonetheless, and plenty fun for climbing and then sand-surfing back down again.
Sadly, just as I was taking these, a woman approached me and informed me that climbing on the dunes is not permitted as it is bad for the grasses that grow on them and contributes to erosion. A part of me wanted to tell her we had driven many many MANY hours to climb on those dunes and dammit, we were going to do it… but that felt like an ugly tourist sort of thing to do, and so I simply nodded and thanked her for the information. The boys were pretty happy to go back to doing this, anyway:
So there were dunes, just not big ones, and not ones you could climb on. And there were boardwalks, too!
We were overcooked, overtired, salty and sandy by this point – exactly how you want to be after spending time at the beach! We stopped for a quick dinner on the way home in Montague at Gillie’s Drive In Diner. They have old-fashioned car hop service, but it was waaaaay too hot to be sitting in the car and we were grateful for the air conditioned diner seating. And the ice cream, of course. We’ve sampled a lot of PEI ice cream so far, and we haven’t even hit the Cows factory yet!
So while it has been a picture-perfect (pardon the pun) trip so far, there have been three things we could have done without on this trip.
One is the mosquitoes and black flies and deer flies. They’re fierce and they’re hungry! We’re bathing in sunscreen and bug spray several times a day, but we’re all still a little bug-bitten.
The second is the jellyfish. Yeesh, and I thought the Luna moths were creepy. We saw one on the shore at the cottage while walking the beach, and saw quite a few in the water at PEI National Park. After a crash Google course, I now know what we saw were the relatively common Lion’s Mane jellyfish, which can grow up to 2m in length with tentacles of more than 30m. *faints* The ones we saw were considerably smaller, about the size of a softball, though one was closer to basketball sized with zillions of *shudder* tentacles closer to 30 cm in length. I also know that stings from these jellyfish are on par with a bee sting (uncomfortable but short-lived) and how to treat a sting, and I know that I will never ever visit the waters of Australia, where the box jellyfish can sting you to death. Beloved already has a big red X over Australia as a potential vacation destination due to the preponderance of deadly snakes, so I suppose that was no big loss on our part.
The final inconvenience? Talk about first world problems. The boys can’t find a version of Treehouse or Family or other kids’ channels that don’t have Described Video turned on. If you thought SpongeBob SquarePants was annoying before, you should try an hour of the DV version! 😉
So if that’s as bad as it gets, it’s pretty darn good.
Today, we’re off to celebrate Canada Day in Charlottetown, including a matinee performance of the Anne of Green Gables musical. I can’t imagine a more perfect way to celebrate the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the signing of the Charlottetown accord, which led to the formation of our beautiful country in 1867.
But first, I think I need to go walk on the beach with my coffee and my camera. Again. 🙂